For Immediate Release: June 15, 2012
Washington, DC – As the G20 Summit gets underway Monday morning, Human Rights First calls upon President Obama to impress upon Russian President Putin to play a more pro-active role in bringing the crisis in Syria to a swift political solution. Both Russia and the United States have strong foreign policy positions on Syria, they both agree the crisis must come to an end; the looming question is whether they can reach an agreement of how to facilitate this outcome and prevent any more civilian deaths.
“In this meeting President Obama must use all his available leverage to convince President Putin to cease his weapons transfer to Syria and to stop enabling the Assad regime to commit crimes against humanity” said Human Rights First’s Sadia Hameed. “President Obama should also influence President Putin to redirect Russian foreign policy in a manner that forges a strong alliance with the people of Syria and not a brutal regime that has lost all legitimacy in the eyes of its people.”
Russia’s position has largely been pro-Assad, demonstrated most strongly through the use of their UN Security veto power to twice block an international arms embargo and their ongoing provision of weapons to the Syrian regime, despite their perpetration of atrocities including indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods, summary executions and arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of protestors. But it is not too late for the Russian authorities to shift that position and choose to be on the right side of history.
The U.S. Senate has taken recently taken steps to condem Russia’s enabling of the astrocities in Syria. Yesterday’s rare bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 494), introduced by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) with Senators Durbin (D-IL), Ayotte (R-NH), Gillibrand (D-NY), Boxer (D-CA), Risch (R-ID), and Menendez (D-NJ), found that Russia has “enabled the Assad regime to maintain power and perpetuate mass atrocities against its own people,” and urges Russia to end all arms sales to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Human Rights First urges the Senate Foreign Relations committee to act upon this resolution as soon as possible.
Human Rights First has called on Secretary Clinton to obtain cargo manifests to verify that Russian weapons supplied to Syria in the last 16 months cannot be used against civilians and in the absence of such proof recommended that the U.S. Government redesignate Russian state arms broker, Rosoboronexport for sanctions and cut all business ties with them.
“With over 13,000 deaths and the United Nations beginning to describe the crisis as a civil war, the time for international consensus and action to stop the bloodshed and save Syrian lives is now,” concluded Hameed.